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Ah, Our furry friends. Our loyal, loving furry friends. These four-legged domestic canines with large staring pupils give warmth to the heart and there isn’t a much more relaxing feeling than running your fingers through their fur all the while petting ever so gently. In this article, we would be answering the question “why do dogs sunbathe?”.
As dog owners, we notice several behaviours, both routine and erratic that our pets display from time to time. One of this constantly looping behaviour is noticing our dogs laying around, all stretched out in the sun, bikinis on, a cool pair of shades to match and hanging loosely in one paw is a half filled glass of martini haha. They love the sun!
We humans like to lay bare on some sandy beach exposing our skin to the sun’s rays trying to get tanned and have an evened out complexion all over our bodies.
We’re not so very different from our furry friends and their need to want to stay out in the sun just as much. Are they tanning their skin too? Why have the tendency to move towards the sun even when it’s hot outside?
Ever wonder why they love to get some sun? Definitely not to tan that’s for sure!
Little wonder is how healthily beneficial this sunbathing is to our furballs.
Here’s a detailed explanation as to their mild heliophiliac (sun loving) behaviour.
Benefits of the sun to dogs
There are a couple reasons why dogs layout for sun showers, many of which have health benefits alongside helping to stabilise their moods, reduce anxiety, stress and keep them in a good physical and mental shape.
Below are bullet points citing the health benefits accrued with dogs sunbathing.
- Vitamin D metabolism, this fat soluble vitamin is essential for the digestion of calcium and other macro/microelements needed to give the adequate nutritional value for development most especially in the formation of strong bones and jaws which are a requirement for a better survival chance in canines.
- Age induced shortcomings, with an advance in age, older dogs have a high tendency of discomfort with regards to weak joints, muscles and tendons accompanied with inflammation which is characteristic of Rheumatoid arthritis expressing itself in pain and swelling of the joints, stiffness, loss of mobility and eventually deformity. Exposure to little sunlight helps these dogs feel better all the while ameliorating the discomfort to a very good degree.
- Emotional-boost, Sunlight helps boost a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin, which gives the dog more energy and helps to keep them calm, alleviating anxiety and stress as low levels of adequate sunlight are linked to apparent display of apathy, detachment and general sadness. Sunlight helps keep the dog in a happy mood.
- Sleep, sunlight helps in the secretion of a chemical metabolised by the body called melatonin which regulates the sleep and wake cycles in mammals improving the quality of rest they get.
- Control moods, the calming effect of the sun’s rays present on the body of these furballs allows mood stability rather than its absence that can cause spikes between multiple emotional extremities in a short period that can be detrimental to both the dog’s health and it’s owner’s.
- Homeostasis, sunlight helps to regulate the body temperature of these dogs especially those in polar or temperate regions as an achievement of dynamic temperature equilibrium between its internal and external environment is needed for normal body metabolism.
- Relaxant, sunbathing provides a medium for promoting relaxation as it provides a soothing experience for the dog and reducing stress levels as well as anxiety also.
Importance of sunbathing
In mammals, the fat soluble vitamin D in deficient amounts causes rickets characteristized by brittle and weak bones and inadequate amounts improve the calcification of bones leading to strong bones.
Sunlight facilitates the production of Vitamin D in humans. When its rays hit our skin it breaks up the oils on the dermal surface producing Vitamin D which is then readily absorbed by the skin.
Dogs have the same oils in their skin, and the metabolism pathway is the same but the difference is;
In dogs, this Vitamin is not readily absorbed by the skin because of the presence of their thick furs and hairs. Therefore, the Vitamin produced stays on the hairs of the dog and it can be seen from their regular self preening behaviour that not only are they licking away, grooming themselves but they’re also ingesting the Vitamin D deposited on their fur.
Dogs laying in the sun is definitely something that they love, readily available to them are a lot of health benefits, and should be allowed as well as monitored with certain precautions to make sure that just the right amount is made up available to them as overexposure can cause abnormalities most especially in body metabolism.
Overexposure to Sunlight
In as much as exposure to sunlight delivers readily on its benefits with the improvement of a healthy lifestyle for your dog, in elevated and exaggerated amounts it can be detrimental to the health of your pet
Over compensated amounts of sunlight exposure is never good and it can present with sunburns, in worse states, the unforgiving sun rays can lead to skin cancer endangering the health of your dog.
Apparently just like humans dogs can suffer heat-related injuries and hyperthermia.
Overexposure to sunlight can lead to heatstroke and an unhealthy spike in body temperature inducing discomfort and ill health in your dog.
Dogs lack sweat glands, an exocrine gland found under the skin of mammals that opens up into pores on the superficial layer of the skin with a major function of regulating body temperature via perspiration. Dogs lack this gland as a result can easily get excessively heated if not placed in a cool, some below room temperature environment.
So it is advisable to consciously check for overexposure as it can cause gross discomfort to your dog and might lead to negative complications later on.
- Sunlight, composed of different types of radiation of varying wavelengths, including ultraviolet wavelengths, is an essential source of light and warmth for life on earth but has strong negative effects on overexposure to the skin of both human and dog alike, such as promoting the malignant transformation of skin cells and suppressing the ability of the human immune system to efficiently detect and attack malignant cells.
- A suppressed/compromised immune system is feeble and prone to an easy attack-and-prevail from even the mildest of infections.
- The effects of low levels of ultraviolet ray exposure on the immune system has not been overly conclusive yet, but still there are notable differences in comparison with the suppressive effect of elevated levels of UV rays from the sun; as evident by some recent research showing detrimental results and disadvantages on the over exposure of UV rays on the skin of mammals.
In comparison to other mammals, dogs need just as much as is enough Vitamin D for the metabolism of calcium which is responsible for the strengthening of bones and teeth in these canines.
This Vitamin D serves as both a vitamin and a hormone. This dual nature presents itself as a vitamin– a coenzyme for the metabolism of certain macroelements and other minerals in the body of the mammal, as a hormone– it is activated on direct contact with the sun’s UV rays.
In excess, Vitamin D can be disadvantageous.
Though a rare condition, elevated levels of Vitamin D in the blood of the dog as a result of overexposure or overdose on supplements could lead to an unreasonably high blood pressure, kidney and liver problems inducing ill health on the dog.
Necessary precautions to avoid extreme sunlight exposure
Sunscreen has always been the go-to strong tower to for preventing sunburns. They create an extra layer between the surface of the skin of the dog and the rays of the sun.
Composed of organic compounds that help reflect UV (ultraviolet) rays from coming in direct contact with the skin.
Never use human sunscreen on your pet dog as it contains zinc oxide/titanium dioxide which can be very toxic to dogs. Always use the recommended sunscreen for dogs.
what to do if I can’t get my dog enough sunlight
Can’t get your dog enough sunlight for some reason, not much of a problem as there are available alternatives present in supplements. Advisably, get a supplement recommendation from your veterinarian before trying out this option.
Other options also include the use of UV bulbs, lightboxes or full-spectrum lightings.
Use these luminaries with caution as overexposure could lead to skin damage and eye irritation in your dog.
In conclusion, it is important to encourage your dog to have sunbaths.
As is seen above the benefits that comes with sunbathing and how important the synthesis of Vitamin D is to the growth and development of a healthy lifestyle for your furball.
All of this should be done with caution as overexposure can have grevious consequences, and underexposure can lead to deficiencies harming the health of your dog.